How to handle this situation?

posted
31-Oct-19, 16:24
edited about 4 seconds later
Avatar for conundrum42
posted about 1 week ago
Hi all, just looking for some advice. I'm doing a PhD in the sciences, just entering my second year of a four year degree. My research is quite theoretical/mathematical, but with direct applications to more applied/practical work. In order to get direct access to researchers who might apply what I'm doing, I decided to undertake my PhD in an applied department (we'll call it department A) which does some (limited) theoretical work. Department A is extremely well-regarded for this applied work and I have great opportunities on that side of things. Plus I have a fantastic supervision team. However, I have found myself lacking support on the theoretical side of things. I've brought this up with them already and we found a supervisor in a pure theory department (department PT) who has agreed to supervise me, which is great. We haven't figured out exactly how the supervision is going to work, and I've come under some pressure from department PT to transfer or push for a joint PhD with them. PT has an exceptional global reputation, so I'm really tempted by the idea of having my PhD awarded jointly with them. But my existing supervisors have been so supportive throughout and I feel like it could be a real dick move to even raise the idea. Plus I'm not sure if the university's name on my diploma matters when I already have access to supervision, internal events, etc. at this new department.

On the other hand, if I ask for my PhD to be fully awarded through department A, I'm not sure what department PT is going to get out of the arrangement? For context, I'm not just asking for limited external supervision. I'm essentially asking to split my time between the two.

I feel like this is a delicate situation and I don't want to step on anyone's toes. Any thoughts would be really helpful.
posted
01-Nov-19, 19:31
by rewt
Avatar for rewt
posted about 1 week ago
This is a really delicate issue and I do not envy you. I am just curious what is the relationship between Departments A and PT, in particular your current supervisors and the new ones. As if you can make the supervisors talk between themselves about this, it takes you out of the middle. I also think you should consider your PhD funding. Is it internal funding, your supervisors funding or a direct grant? As if it is the first two options, you don't really have a say and is a good excuse to turn down department PT.
posted
01-Nov-19, 21:23
edited about 2 minutes later
Avatar for kikothedog
posted about 1 week ago
If funding rules out a joint project I'd still work it that department PT become part of your work, maybe not in a supervisor role but why not see if you could later publish something together, based on a 'placement' or collaboration that allows you to spend time in department PT learning as much as you can, maybe over a summer or so?

Are these 'departments' actually different universities? Because I know cross department help in projects can happen in the sciences, you usually just need a willing supervisor who has the time to invest in your project and happy to have their name on your publications. If you have work that is looking like publication worthy then your current supervisors should have too much problem with you finding an expert to contribute to your project. If you don't you may just have to wait it out another year or so until you are at a stage where this department PT could be a benefit without having a claim on your funding.

I'd speak to your current Dept A supervisors when you have a clear option - a plan where Prof X in Dept PT is willing to work with you on the theory of Y so you can implement that with Dept A - and publish.

Talking about a possible collaboration on your work is a brighter note than telling your current supervisors you want to transfer to Dept PT because you lack knowledge. The PhD is yours remember, you have to do all of the work, if supervisors in Dept A aren't willing to offer that and they've spoken to you about their inability to offer that advice/guidance then speak to them about approaching this other Prof.

It's best to keep the lines of communication open so your current supervisors are aware that you have problems that need to be addressed for your project to succeed, either they find that help for you or you explain that you've found a source at Dept PT that could provide the insight.
posted
02-Nov-19, 00:07
edited about 3 minutes later
Avatar for conundrum42
posted about 1 week ago
Quote From rewt:
This is a really delicate issue and I do not envy you. I am just curious what is the relationship between Departments A and PT, in particular your current supervisors and the new ones. As if you can make the supervisors talk between themselves about this, it takes you out of the middle. I also think you should consider your PhD funding. Is it internal funding, your supervisors funding or a direct grant? As if it is the first two options, you don't really have a say and is a good excuse to turn down department PT.

Thanks for the reply. Departments A and PT have no relationship with each other that I know of. They're in different universities and in different (but related) fields, although my main supervisor in A is keen to build a better relationship with PT. On an individual level, one of my supervisors in department A knows the supervisor in department PT. They've collaborated on a few papers together. I'm also currently collaborating with her on a paper. But my main supervisor has no relationship with her. As for the funding, it's from an external source but it's tied to a specific programme in department A, so I'm not sure if that will be the bottleneck (I'd definitely need to get approval from the funder).

You could be right that getting them to hash it out with each other is the best approach, and avoid getting involved myself, although my understanding is that the department admins are going to care more about this arrangement than my supervisors.

Quote From kikothedog:
Are these 'departments' actually different universities?

Yes, they're in different universities.

Quote From kikothedog:
Why not see if you could later publish something together, based on a 'placement' or collaboration that allows you to spend time in department PT learning as much as you can, maybe over a summer or so?

That's sort of what I'm doing at the moment. I was collaborating with her on a paper before the supervision idea came up, and I've been going on some regular research visits to PT. So we have a specific paper we're working on together and we're discussing future papers too.

The trouble I'm having now is figuring out how exactly we're going to include her formally as part of my PhD, since I have to consider that departments A and PT both have their own interests.

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